Bill Backus explains why homeworking agents receive the highest CSAT scores.
Many companies are looking at a virtual agent model (work at home) to add to their current call centres.
While there are misgivings, there are also many advantages to having virtual agents.
Homeworking attracts older agents with more life experience to offer
When hiring directly for this group, the average age will skew to around 40 years old. This tends to result in a group of agents with life experiences that complement those of the average caller.
It also assures a more accurate background/security report than is available for young agents.
Removing the daily commute improves quality of life
A broad definition of culture for a call centre can be defined as a state where people are proud to come to work and deal with customers. Customer service therefore can be directly affected by how an agent feels about the company.
While culture can include hats, banners and camaraderie, it also extends to the length of the daily commute (and the incurred costs), as well as the money spent on wardrobe and take-out meals. An imbalance of these factors can lead to a reduction in work/life quality.
Virtual agents are much happier with their jobs (as they don’t have to contend with the daily commute or worry about ironing their shirt), resulting in higher CSATs and quality scores.
Agents tend to receive more one-on-one coaching
Surveys show that agents feel like they have better coaching – with more one-on-one managing in a homeworking scenario than in the contact centre. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of agent/manager communication will happen via phone.
While virtual managing does require leaders to be well prepared and thorough in their duties, the results are agents who exceed KPIs with reduced behavioural issues.
Agents have more bandwidth at home than in the office
The IT challenge is one that causes concern regarding security, as well as system quality. However, adjustments can be made, through combinations of VPNs and Secure IDs along with secure VOIP telephone interfaces, which can overcome this.
In addition, agent bandwidth at home – from DSL/cable – tends to be higher than the average provided on a per-agent basis within a contact centre.
Homeworkers can easily jump on the phones to cover peaks in call volume
Agents working from home can easily jump on and off the queue in a timely manner, substantially improving the utilisation of staff resources.
While there are challenges with recruiting and virtual training with the current practices, the new paradigm raises the quality and quantity of the programmes.
Scheduling is now easier
There are still legitimate concerns regarding reporting, scheduling, training, and recruiting when operating in a virtual agent system.
However, with a few modifications, reporting is easily adjusted to include necessary KPIs for managing remotely. Scheduling can also now be tuned to call arrival patterns rather than agent shifts.
Lower attrition and adherence issues are found in virtual teams
Overall statistical results have shown that homeworking agents are more productive and provide superior service to callers when compared with their contact-centre-based colleagues.
Managers also report substantially lower attrition and adherence issues in virtual teams.
With thanks to Bill Backus, Virtual Business Consultant at Backus and Associates LLC